How to Build Business Partnerships that Work | 5 Simple Steps

If you’re looking to grow your business through partnerships, this article is for you. In it, I’m going to share with you how I reinvigorated a dormant partners program that I inherited to consistently bring us new prospects and customers every single week. I’m going to share with you what was in the resource I share with our partners to activate them to start actively promoting our business.

Step 1: Take stock of what you have

The first step you need to take is take stock of what you actually already have. If you don’t have a partners program in place, think about what you do have. Is there, for example, a list of conferences that you know that people in your industry consistently attend, or maybe you know of some podcast or shows that people in your industry like to go on or learn from.

If you have a partners program, you need to ask yourself, what is the state of your partners program? Are any of your partners currently really engaged with you or are most of them pretty checked out? What can your partners do today and what would you like them to be able to do in the future? In my situation, I found that the partners program I inherited had the basic affiliate codes set up for each of the partners, but each partner wasn’t really set up for success too easily share these partner codes with their potential network.

So in other words, they weren’t actually activated. They were just simply set up with a coupon code and then left by themselves to actually distribute that code to people that might be good for our business. By first, taking a step back and gaining context behind the situation you’re in, you can start to identify what problem you want to actually solve. In my case, I had an activation problem. So that leads me to step number two.

Step 2: Settle on the key actions you want partners to take

Step two is to settle on the key actions that you would like your partners to take. What you’ll need to think about is what are the three to five things that partners can do to really become awesome partners for your business.

For example, it might be that they do a collaboration workshop with you once every single quarter, or it might be as simple as they send two emails out to their newsletters every single year when it comes to sharing the partnership that they have with your business. Whatever the case may be, you need to think about what you really want to get out of the bulk of your partners. That way you can help activate them towards actually getting what you want.

The reason why we do this is because it gives us the key performance indicators or the KPIs that we can then use later on to gauge the success of our partner program. If we know that these are the three to five things that are most important to us and that by the end of the year, only 10% of our partners are doing them, then we know that our partners program is probably failing to meet our expectations.

Step 3: Map out what you will be doing for them

The third step to building business partnerships that actually work is fleshing out specifically what value you’re going to be adding to their lives. Too often, I think that when people think about business partnerships, they think of it in a one-way street, as opposed to a two way street, but ultimately both you and your partner have to show up in the sandbox to play together. So you need to set them up for success. This often means thinking about the lowest hanging fruit that you can do in terms of helping them actualize the value of your partnership.

For example, in my case, I noticed that before I came on board, the partner program was pretty much setting up all of our partners with a coupon code. And then just saying, “Hey, please share our business the next time that the problem we solve comes up in a conversation.” This led to little to no actual action. I think there’s just so much more to business partnerships than this sort of approach. So what I did when I came on board was I first took stock of all of our partners and reached out to schedule time with each of them.

And then from there, I spent the time in our call learning more about what they were actually doing and identifying opportunities in which we could both work together. In other words, it was by thinking about brand integrations and ways that we could actually support each other, that I was able to get the partners more excited about actually sharing our product.

One way that I did this was by starting a new content calendar in which once every few weeks we run a webinar with one of our partners and give them a bigger platform for these trainings that they often already do in our space. So when you think about how to create these win-win situations for your partners, they will be more inclined to actually advocate for your business when they are talking to their networks about the problem that you solve.

Something else I offered aside from my initial analysis is I would follow up with them and identify five to seven strategies that they could take that were really low hanging fruit on their websites in order to improve their conversion opportunities. For example, this could be as simple as setting up a tools and resources page, where we were listed as one of their favorite tools, or it could be something in which they wrote a blog post about us and what we do for their customers. And then incorporated that into their email list.

It also was as simple as asking them to include an email in their opt-in list in which new people on their email list would receive a message about the special deal that they had with us as a partner with us. The way I knew this was working was because I was getting compliments from my boss about how partners were talking about how helpful I was with them. And I was also noticing these actual new pages popping up in which we were getting new backlinks to our partner’s websites that didn’t exist before as they started to create some of those tools and resources, pages, and general pages about us.

Step 4: Give your partners a jumpstart kit

The fourth step that I recommend when it comes to building actual business partnerships that work is giving your partners a jumpstart kit. After having a couple of these meetings with our existing partners, I was noticing a few trends as to what was working for that upper 10% of partners that were leading us to the most referrals.

What I realized was that these partners were incorporating us into modules of their online course, as they taught their students how to solve the particular problem that our product solves as well. So naturally, as students are learning how complicated this problem can be and how easy it can be to solve it with our product, they would sign up for our service, try a sell and then become customers.

So I started to map out what these strategies looked like for our top partners and created a jumpstart kit. So after doing these meetings, I started a Google doc in which I outlined all of the key strategies that I was noticing success from. And here’s what I put in a Google doc. I noticed that some customers were successful when they were incorporating us into online modules of their courses.

I was also noticing customers were successful and they’re incorporating us in some sort of tools and resources page, or a blog post about the problem that we solve. I found partners that record a simple one minute testimonial video had higher conversions on the actual pages where they put our product because they could actually share the story of how our product has impacted their lives.

And then I also found it helpful to create live webinars, where we could partner with our partner to offer some sort of free training that helped solve or identify a problem that they were having in their business. Once I outlined these strategies, I realized that I needed to make this even more robust.

So this is what my ultimate form of my jumpstart kit looked like. How our partner program works, what we believe makes for effective partnership, what partners can expect from us, what our most successful partners do, sample copy to use. These were exact one-liners and product descriptions that our partners could copy and paste and their websites, logos, and assets that they could copy and use, presentations that they could use for these smaller trainings that they might be running independently, as well as website banners that they could put onto their web pages, as well as next steps that we would want them to take after reviewing the document.

So by giving all of this information up front of my partners, I was essentially answering 90% of the questions that anybody might have around how to be successful as a partner with us. I was making it so easy for them to take action that they actually could just go ahead and do that immediately after our initial call.

Step 5: Stay in touch at least once a month

The last step that I’ll share with you is to make sure that you stay in touch at least once a month or every other month. Partners naturally will have their own things going on. They are often running their own businesses. And so there’s a lot that can go on in the regular flow of things. So it’s important for you to stay top of mind with them.

And one of the easiest ways that I’ve done this is at the end of every single month, I send a end of month recap in which I email our partners, sharing some of the wins I’ve seen in terms of our most success.  partners, some new features or updates on our site as well as anything else that I think would be valuable for them as a partner with us.

Aside from this end of month update, I’ll also schedule regular quarterly calls with these people just to make sure that they hear my voice and they see me and that we have an actual relationship. And then sometimes when we have an upcoming partner webinar, I’ll actually share some marketing copy that they can copy and paste and share with their email lists because I think that the topic that we are going over in that training with another partner will be helpful for their network as well. This allows all of my partners to feel like they are invested in our success and that we are looking out for them in providing additional value for their audiences.

Ultimately, everyone likes to give other people something of value. So when we extend these invitations for our upcoming webinars, these other partners are coming from a position in which it’s like they’re doing their audiences a favor because they found this free training that they are able to invite their list to.

All of these changes have had a huge impact in our partners program in just the last few months. For example, in our first webinar in over six months, we were able to 10X registrations and see the most conversions from our live webinar. And we were also able to see a ton of new backlinks from the pages that partners created as a result of the strategies we mapped out in our jumpstart kit. Lastly, we’ve seen a significant uptick in our growth rate when it comes to new trials, as well as customers that have converted from partners.

Big takeaways

There are two things that I want you to remember when it comes to building partnerships that work:

  1. The first one is that effective business partnerships are a two-way street.
  2. The second thing is, make sure you create a jumpstart kit for your partners to make it easy for them to take action on your program.

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